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New London-Spicer’s Taylor Thunstedt and Eden Valley-Watkins’ Mikayla Kummet chase a loose ball during the Section 6AA-South championship on Tuesday at St. John’s University in Collegeville. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton

Girls basketball: NLS edges EVW to win 6AA-South

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COLLEGEVILLE — The Wildcats moved within a step of The Dance, spilling underdog Eden Valley-Watkins 35-32 on Tuesday in the Section 6AA-South title game at St. John’s University.

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Now 23-5, New London-Spicer will take on North champion Sauk Centre (22-6) at 6 p.m. Friday at Halenbeck Hall at St. Cloud State University.

Sauk Centre defeated 20-7 Staples/Motley 52-28 in Tuesday’s late game at SJU.

As one may judge by the final spread, NLS coach Mike Dreier has seldom had to sweat out any of his 815 victories more than this one.

His girls shot a distressing 25 percent from the floor, including 2 of 14 attempts from bonus territory, and committed 18 turnovers.

“It was a combination of big-hearted play, and they didn’t function well on offense, nor did we,” Dreier said.

The Eagles had much to do with those figures. Clearly, they were well-prepared and psyched up to upset the South’s No. 1 seed, which had raked them by 13 points early in the season and came in 9-0 against section competition.

The Wildcats’ micro-lead with a half-minute to play, 33-32, was in jeopardy. That’s when your team needs someone to step up.

No, not 2,000-plus point scorer, fifth-year starter Taylor Thunstedt. Too obvious.

Then, who?

“Alyssa Fredrick,” shouted Thunstedt in the happy aftermath. “She definitely came through. Where is she? I want to hug her.”

Frederick, a sophomore reserve, was fouled with 28 seconds left and the ’Cats up by one.

She hadn’t scored in eight minutes of floor time.

“I thought I need to make this for the team,” Fredrick said, standing among the jubilant Wildcat supporters.

The first one went through clean and it was 34-32.

Fredrick puffed her cheeks in relief and made the second, equally clean.

“That was amazing,” she said, admitting she’d never been in a pressure spot like that before. “I wanted my team to believe in me. I finally got the chance.”

The 5-foot-7 sparkplug also had two thefts in the final minute, the second to clinch the victory.

The ’Cats’ scoring output was the lowest of their season. The Eagles, who finish 19-8, led 21-16 at half but the first seven points out of the locker room were scored by NLS: Thunstedt feathered in a 16-footer from the baseline, then dished to Bri Fredrick and Ashlyn Giester for baskets and a 23-21 NLS lead.

The score was tied three times after that and the Eagles had their final lead at 32-31 on a steal and lay-up by Mikayla Kummet at 8:01.

Remarkably, that turned out to be the Eagles last basket of the season against the sliding ’Cats zone.

Both teams were in a drought when Geister scored from underneath at 2:40 to put the ’Cats up, 33-32.

Thunstedt forced a turnover with 29 seconds left, forcing the Eagles to foul. That soon put Alyssa Fredrick at the line with 24 seconds showing. Like a varsity veteran, she made both for the final margin.

Typical of the Wildcats’ shooting woes was Alyssa’s older sister Bri. The senior popped her first shot, a three pointer from the corner but missed 6 or 7 outside shots after that.

“They just weren’t falling but you have to keep believing in yourself,” she said.

She and Megan Thorson, off the bench, each finished with five points, Geister six and Thunstedt 16 on 4 of 13 from the floor and 7 of 9 free throws.

The Eagles worked hard to defeat the 2-3 NLS zone; they did well the first half when Kummet scored 11 of her team-high 14 points by sinking 3 of 5 three-point tries. And throughout, they got steady rebounding from Dani Nelson, who had 7 points and 11 rebounds.

But turnovers were a big problem for the Eagles, too (21 to 18 by the ’Cats). The Eagles outshot the higher seed from the field but the free throw margin was huge in the Wildcats’ favor: 13 of 19 to 2 of 4 for the Eagles.

“I was really pleased with the (defensive) effort they put forward,” Dreier said. “We had trouble putting the ball in the basket but the ‘D’ effort was amazing.”

The Wildcats’ lowest output before the South championship was 46 on Saturday.

NLS, which will have to be much sharper on Friday, are bidding for the school’s 15th state tournament appearance in girls basketball and first since 2009. Meanwhile, the NLS faithful have an appointment at the Target Center at 6 p.m. today to watch the boys team in the Class AA quarterfinals.

New London-Spicer 35, Eden Valley-Watkins 32

EVW (19-8)          21 11 — 32

NLS (23-5)           16 19 — 35

EDEN VALLEY-WATKINS – 13-43 FG (4-14 3-pt); 2-4 FT; 32 rebounds; 14 fouls … Scoring: Mikayla Kummet 14, Bella. Perlberg-Cromwell 6, Dani Nelson 11, Elaina Stommes 4, Brook Stang 2 … 3-point shots: Kummet 3-9, Nelson 1-5 … Rebound leaders: Nelson 11, Kummet 7, Stommes 4… Assist leaders: Nelson 3 … Steal leaders: Jamie Scherer 4, Kummet 4

NEW LONDON-SPICER – 10-39 FG (2-14 3-pt); 13-19 FT; 33 rebounds; 7 fouls … Scoring: Taylor Thunstedt 16, Bri Fredrick 5, Petra Lothert 1, Ashlyn Geister 6, Alyssa Fredrick 2, Megan Thorson 5 … 3-point shots: Thunstedt 1-5, Bri Fredrick 1-2 … Rebound leaders: Thorson 7, Kabrie Wibar 3, Geister 9, B. Fredrick 3, Olivia Setterberg 3 … Assist leaders: Thunstedt 4, B. Fredrick 2 … Steal leaders: Thunstedt 4, A. Fredrick 4, Lothert 3, Geister 2 … Blocks: Geister 3, Thorson, Setterberg

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